Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Enraged - Bangkok, Thailand

Photo by humblenick (CC)
"Sawat-dee-krap, pai Khao-San dai mai krap?"
The taxi driver nods and I sit on the back holding a chilled can of Leo. From Major Cineplex to Central Mall it's the usual, smooth Bangkok night ride, then a car sprints out of Lat-Phrao rd and cuts across our way. My driver utters a guttural sound and slams the brake pedal down. I'm surprisingly calm - it might be because of the sedative effect of the Saturday beers, my innate fatalism, or a bit of both - while the car slows down quickly, skidding a little, until our front bumper ends up kissing quite gently the pirate car's rear one.
We came out of it rather well - or at least I did - but I know that it's not over yet: I picture the worst case scenario and I hope that the other car stops soon. In vain: the guy is speeding away as if he didn't even realize what happened, and my driver, without an official opening ceremony, has already declared the beginning of chasing time.
Speeding makes me quite nervous, especially if I don't know the driver and he's enraged. He doesn't show it much but I know he is. Unlike a hypothetical Italian counterpart of his, who would have vented his frustration through a litany of a heretical-mystical nature, he's only emitting some mono-syllabic sounds, driving nervously, accelerating and steering intermittently. 
At a certain point he follows the runaway vehicle into a road that won't definitely lead us where I am supposed to go, and that's when I come out of my trance and start yelling "Stop, stop right now!" I say it in Thai, English, Italian, Chinese and Spanish. He finally stops the car near the curb and I suspect it was not because his ancestors came to the Kingdom of Siam from Toledo or Madrid. 
I quickly get out. He does the same, without minding me at all, and goes to check the damage. I don't care about him anymore, he has given me a bad five-minute-time, I spot the first available cab and flag it down. 
Now that I'm safe I think about what just happened. Often Bangkok taxi drivers don't own the cars they drive, they just rent them from a company, and in cases like this they will probably have the cost of the repairs deducted from their income. 
I take a sip of the beer that by now has got warm and I silently wish him good luck: hopefully the car got out of it unscathed, like we both did.

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